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Do Crooked Teeth Affect Your Speech?

By Adrienne Keller
Crooked teeth can impact your speech. Learn about a few possible consequences of crooked teeth and their effects on spoken language.

Speech issues can result from crooked teeth. Conditions such as overbite, gapped teeth, and overcrowding can create a variety of problems with speaking. Additionally, whistling sounds, lisping, and the general distortion of letter sounds can make it challenging for others to understand you clearly.

Crooked Teeth and Speech Problems

Speech problems are one of the possible consequences of crooked teeth—which is also known as malocclusion. The teeth, jaws, and tongue all play important roles in speech production, and crooked teeth can disrupt the overall harmony of the mouth. This can subsequently impact the way you form words. 

Sandeep Kumar Aggarwal, founder and CEO of SKAOLOGY Medical Group in New York, tells WebMD Connect to Care that certain types of malocclusion are more likely to lead to speech problems. These problems include:

  • Overcrowded teeth. When teeth turn sideways and protrude outwards, it becomes difficult for the tongue to move freely through the mouth.
  • Gapped teeth. Gaps can cause whistling sounds and make maintaining a dialogue challenging.
  • Open bites. An open bite can make it difficult to control the airflow out of your mouth and cause an interdental lisp.
  • Overbites. An overbite is usually related to overcrowding on the top arch and can affect your ability to produce tongue-tip sounds and sibilants, such as the “s” sound. 

One of the biggest consequences of crooked teeth on speech production occurs when the top and bottom teeth do not align properly.

The teeth are one of a number of anatomical features that function together in order to enable speech. These features are called “articulators”.

“When [misalignment] occurs, the rest of the articulators may have trouble forming the necessary shapes required for the air to travel the same path that it would in others’ speech,” Leanne Sherred, licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) and president and Chief Clinical Officer of Expressable, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“The potentially impacted sounds might include /s/, /z/, [sh], [ch], or [j]. While you might still be able to understand the word that an individual is saying, the distortion in the sound might distract from the overall message,” Sherred says.

Individuals with tongue ties are also prone to crooked teeth and speech problems. “If someone has a tongue tie, normal tongue posture does not occur and a narrow palate results, making it difficult for all their teeth to fit,” Deb Roth, CCC-SLP of Tongue Tie Life tells WebMD Connect to Care. These individuals often “end up with overcrowding and crooked teeth,” Roth explains. 

“To correctly form words and regulate talking speed, our tongues need the freedom to move. However, if the tongue is restricted due to a tongue tie, correctly articulating sounds becomes a challenge. Many sounds are formed using contact with the teeth, so if the arrangement of the teeth is altered, speech clarity is altered,” Roth notes.

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